Everyone enjoys a good crossover story. When television shows send characters of a lesser-known series into a more established hit (or vice versa) it is a time-honored move for studios. Making the grammar of two shows mesh isn’t always easy either. On April 10,2015 the Syracuse Crunch (AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning) attempted to do just that. In a Friday night tilt vs. the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Syracuse Crunch, took the time to honor a previous tenant in their home, the War Memorial Arena at The Oncenter.
In a pregame ceremony that took place at center ice, the Syracuse Crunch celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the 1954-55 Syracuse Nationals Capturing the NBA Championship Title in a game seven victory against the Fort Wayne Pistons. Former members of the team and their families and friends were invited back to Syracuse, New York for this special night. Former players in attendance were Jim Tucker, one of the first two African-Americans in NBA history, Bill Kenville, who had a strong championship series for this run, and Dolph Schayes, who until the arrival of Wilt Chamberlain, held most of the major NBA scoring records. Acting as representatives for the ceremony were Bob Gabor, the son of Billy Gabor who was unable to attend, Paul Seymour Jr. representing the teams former captain and his namesake, Paul Seymour, and the sons of the recently deceased Hall of Famer Earl Lloyd, Kevin Lloyd and David Spivey.
NBA’s Senior Communications Advisor to the Commissioner, Brian McIntyre and a media crew from NBA Entertainment, were also in attendance to represent their league. The Syracuse Crunch put together a recognition that tugged at the heart-strings of everyone involved and the 5,700 fans in attendance. The ceremony began with a video of game clips and sound bites from the 1954-55 season and welcomed back the family members and former players, who were escorted to center ice by members of the Syracuse Crunch leadership team – Joey Mormina, Jonathan Marchessault and Jean-Philippe Cote.
The former players and representatives each received a special memento of a glass encased section of the hardwood court the team played, and ultimately captured the NBA title on. However, this wasn’t the only surprise that the Syracuse Crunch had in store for these champions. When the team had captured the title 60-years ago they received ice buckets, as the team owners decided on the gift for players instead of the modern day championship rings.
In a turn of events, Howard Dolgon, the owner of the Hockey Club and Syracuse Crunch Captain, Mike Angelidis, presented the players with their very own Baron Championship rings to honor their anniversary. The silver rings were just as shiny as the freshly cleaned ice awaiting the hockey game that was taking a momentary back seat to what will probably be the last Syracuse Nationals celebration for these athletes.
After succumbing to several media requests, posing for photos and signing memorabilia for fans, the former Syracuse Nationals players took an unfamiliar seat in their old arena, in the stands with their family and friends to enjoy an AHL hockey game. The Syracuse Crunch players had a front row seat from their team bench for this historic recognition of a professional team of yesteryear. In the home stretch of their 21st season and on the cusp of heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs, the city of Syracuse will again hold their breath and hope the magic of this night can be foreshadow of what’s ahead as the Syracuse Crunch finish out their 2014-15 season.